Yield: 4 to 6 servings
A simple dish, good hot or at room temperature, this makes good use of the smoky Chinese black vinegar.
1-1/4 pounds Asian eggplants
3 tablespoons Gold Plum "Chinkiang" vinegar or
other Chinese black vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon crushed dried red chili pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions, green part included
Cut the eggplants in half and then into wedges no more than 1/2 inch wide. Cut the wedges into strips measuring 2 inches by 1/2 inch. Blend the vinegar; sugar; and salt, and set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and thoroughly wilted. Add the dried chili pepper and stir briefly. Add the vinegar mixture and cook another minute or two, until the liquid is thoroughly absorbed. Stir in the scallions and turn off the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Not all Chinese vinegars are rice vinegars; the fine dark vinegars of northern China are usually made from other grains. Wheat, millet, and sorghum are used, and the best, reminiscent of Italy's balsamic vinegar; are aged for years.
Zhejiang, on China's north coast, is known for its vinegars. They're aged and have a wonderfully complex, smoky flavor that is lightly and pleasantly bitter. Unlike fine vinegars from other regions, such as Shanxi, near Beijing, where chefs add vinegar to practically every dish (they even poach eggs in it), good Zhejiang vinegar is found here at Chinese food stores. The premier brand, made from glutinous rice and malt, is Gold Plum "Chinkiang Vinegar."
Other flavorful black vinegars on the market include Tientsin, a good all-purpose sorghum vinegar that's not as interesting as the Zhejiang, and Narcissus brand "Yongchun Loagu," a fine aged vinegar. Both are from China.
Some black rice vinegars, such as Hong Kong's Koon Chun, are often diluted (meaning they have only about 2-1/2 percent acetic acid) and have little depth.
Highly Recommended: Gold Plum's "Chinkiang Vinegar," available in 19-ounce bottles.
Recommended: Tientsin Vinegar, available in 20-ounce bottles; Narcissus "Yongchun Loagu," available in 7-ounce bottles.
By Bruce Cost
Quill/HarperCollins Publishers, 2000
Black & White photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created November 2000
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